Here we will tell the story of the beginnings of our Parish and how we became what we are today.
A church has existed in Derriaghy for almost 1000 years.
The earliest mention comes in a letter from Pope Innocent III on 26th May 1204 confirming the Priory of St. Andrew’s in Ards, including the “Church of Erderacheth” (Derriaghy). These Churches belonged to the Black Friars.
The Priory at Ards and the “Church of Erderacheth” were sold in 1356 to Richard Fitzralph, the Archbishop of Armagh, for £200 when the Friars vacated the church.
In the early 17th Century only 2 ecclesiastical parishes existed between the garrison towns of Lisburn and Carrickfergus, namely Derriaghy and Shankill.
The first recorded Parish Priest of Derriaghy is Rev. Phelomy O’Hamill. We do not know when he was appointed to Derriaghy but we do know he was ordained in Dublin in the year 1667. We know from his registration in 1704 that he was Parish Priest of Belfast, Derriaghy and Drum.
A letter in 1708 to Joshua Dawson, Secretary’s Office, Dublin from the Sovereign of Belfast, George McCartney confirmed that he had arrested Phelomy O’Hamill and incarcerated him in Belfast Jail. It is believed that Phelomy died in Belfast Jail in 1709 and is buried in Lambeg Cemetery.
The next Parish Priest was Rev. Magee (1709-1733). Rev. John O’Mullan followed him from 1733 until his death in 1772 aged 80 years. He is attributed to building St. Patrick’s Church on the Barnfield Road. He too is buried in Lambeg graveyard.
It is not known when St. Patrick’s was first built, probably the late 17th or early 18th century. We do know that Rev. O’Mullan rebuilt it in 1745 after the ‘Wreckers’ damaged it in 1744 supporting the ‘Pretender’ Bonnie Prince Charlie. The present cross on the building bears the date 1745.
By now the town of Belfast was established and beginning to grow. In 1769 the Parish Priest of Derriaghy, Rev. Hugh O’Donald secured a building to use as a church in Squeezegut Entry, Belfast. St. Mary’s Church was opened in 1784 and with the establishment of that parish in 1812, the chapel of St. Patrick’s Derriaghy was destined to become the Mother Church of the City of Belfast and all the Parishes that now exist in the South and West Belfast area.
In 1771 the dismantling of the Penal Laws began and Catholics were permitted to lease land.
St. Patrick’s was damaged on 9th June 1798 at the time of 1798 rebellion and refurbished in 1802 by the then Parish Priest Father John Devlin.
St. Patrick’s continued to flourish and for the next century Derriaghy returned to it’s ancient role of a rural parish with three churches at the Rock, Hannahstown and Derriaghy. At this time Christians of other denominations used the graveyard at St. Patrick’s and the oldest existing tombstone is that of James Gourley who died 1st August 1838.
Around 1925 a porch was added to the front of St. Patrick’s Church.
Fr. John McCarroll bought ground in Lambeg and in 1957 Bishop Mageean dedicated the new Church of St. Colman at Queensway, to cope with the continuing increase in the catholic population in this area. The loyalty and generosity of the parishioners made the vision of those two men a reality. A parochial house was also built beside the Church. This Church was attacked in l987 and had to be almost completely rebuild.
In the twentieth century Derriaghy lost it’s rural character. In the life span of the oldest amongst us it became urbanized to such an extent that 8 new parishes have been formed from Derriaghy’s territory – St. Agnes’s, St. Theresa’s, Hannahstown, St. Oliver Plunkett, Holy Trinity, St. Michael’s, St. Luke’s and Nativity.
On 12th May 1974 the church was badly damaged in a sectarian attack.
In 1984 electricity was installed.
The building was again attacked and badly damaged in 1986. Restoration work was carried out in 1987 when a new roof was added.
Mgr. Thomas Bartley built a new larger Church of St. Colman’s was blessed and dedicated on the 8th September l99l by the newly appointed Bishop Patrick J. Walsh on an adjoining site. The old Church would now be used as a parish centre.
With the completion of this Church, the parish plant at St. Colman’s consists of a Church, parish centre, parochial house, and a school.
It is the people of God in the Parish of Derriaghy, and a testimony in stone to their faith and to the fidelity of those in past generations kept that faith alive.
In August 1994, out of Derriaghy, two new parishes of St. Anne’s and Our Lady Queen of Peace were formed. Derriaghy settled down with a new Parish Priest, Very Rev. Brendan McMullan and two churches of St. Colman’s at Lambeg and St. Patrick’s at Barnfield Road Derriaghy.
In September 1995 St. Patrick’s Celebrated it’s 250th Anniversary.